- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

It’s axiomatic that Washington runs on forms. And Adobe System’s Acrobat Professional software is one of the most important tools a form creator or user can have in his or her arsenal.

Acrobat Professional 8, announced Sept. 17, carries the same $449 retail price of previous versions, with a $159 price for upgrades from existing version 7 users.

If you want to skip the rest of the review, here’s my advice: run, don’t walk, to your phone and order a copy. When it ships in a few weeks, you’ll be very, very glad you did.

The Acrobat portable document format, or PDF, is one of the more important, if unheralded, benefits of the computer revolution. A PDF file can be created on a PC running Microsoft Windows, commented on by a Macintosh user, and read by someone with a Linux-based PC, and vice versa or any combination thereof.

The PDF is a pretty “universal” document exchange format that offers added security on demand: You can set things so that no one at all can change or modify a PDF document, something less reliably done in Microsoft Windows and practically unable to be done with some other programs.

This new Acrobat release, of which I reviewed a beta copy of the Windows version, does things with documents that many of us will stand up and cheer over. For example, it will take a raft of Microsoft file type Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations and let you merge them into a single PDF document or into a virtual package in which each document is its own “unit.” Either way, preparing reports, briefing books and the like just became a lot easier. Under the “package” method, digital signatures on each document, as well as that document’s security settings, can be preserved.

Speaking of security, the ability to “redact” documents is enhanced in this new version as well, which will not only mark out text sections better than in previous versions, but also, if needed, include the appropriate Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, codes, which would allow the reader to understand why a passage has been so designated. Those whose job it is to release sensitive files will likely value such a feature.

Those who share documents for commenting will have some powerful features to work with as well, including a way to make a group review more easily accomplished. Those who get a document to review, using either Acrobat Professional 8 or the Acrobat 8 reader — a free program due for release along with the pro version — will be able to add their comments, while noting who else has seen the document and has commented. That way, only one person will question the spelling of a word, instead of 15 folks.

Another high spot of this program has two benefits: the Acrobat Professional program will scan a PDF document for possible “form fields” that can be filled in. Ideally, this should work without flaw; in real life, I found a roughly 75 percent success rate on an eight-page form I downloaded from an Internet site.

More details on the software will be found, I’m sure, at https://www.adobe.com, or by asking anyone in your office whose smile is exceptionally wide these days.

Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily on The Washington Times’ Web site, at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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